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FY23 Budget Outcomes: DOE Office of Science

FEB 07, 2023
Congress raised the budget for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science by 8% to $8.1 billion for fiscal year 2023, double the request. Combined with a one-time boost last year from the Inflation Reduction Act, the office has been able to accelerate certain projects and initiatives across its portfolio.
Will Thomas
Spencer R. Weart Director of Research in History, Policy, and Culture

Funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science rose 8% to $8.10 billion for fiscal year 2023, about double the Biden administration’s requested 4% increase. The office also received a one-time $1.55 billion appropriation last August through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), supplementing its fiscal year 2022 budget.

Broadly, the Biden administration has prioritized funding for DOE’s clean energy R&D programs, which has led some lawmakers, including Democrats, to publicly complain the office was being neglected. With last year’s CHIPS and Science Act, Congress proposed a more ambitious agenda for the office that has bipartisan backing, setting an $8.90 billion budget target for fiscal year 2023 that rises to $10.83 billion by fiscal year 2027. Although the IRA boost has put the office’s budget ahead of that trajectory, the political dynamics of the newly divided Congress may well hinder further funding increases.

Congress provided detailed direction for the Office of Science in an explanatory statement accompanying its fiscal year 2023 spending legislation and a report prepared by House appropriators. Detailed figures are collected in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker .

FY23 Appropriations: DOE Office of Science (chart)

Cross-cutting initiatives

The Office of Science is dedicating increasingly large portions of its budget to R&D initiatives that draw funding from across the office’s programs and other parts of DOE. Congress set the following minimum funding levels for the office’s contributions to these initiatives for this fiscal year:

  • Quantum information science. $245 million, remaining even

  • Artificial intelligence. $135 million, up from $120 million

  • Energy storage. $83 million, up from $24 million

  • Industrial decarbonization. $65 million, up from $20 million

  • Removal of atmospheric carbon. $50 million, up from $35 million

  • Critical minerals. $25 million, up from $17 million

  • Hydrogen fuel. $17 million, an allocation not previously specified

  • Emissions-reducing fuels. $10 million, an allocation not previously specified

Energy Earthshot Centers. The office is directed to allocate up to $100 million to its new Energy Earthshot Research Centers program in the current fiscal year, about half DOE’s request. DOE has just opened a competition to award its first cohort of centers, with the aim of providing a total of $200 million over four years. Each center will address basic research challenges related to DOE’s Energy Earthshot technology goals and have an annual budget of between $3 million and $5 million. Each center is to be led by one of DOE’s national labs, but applicants are encouraged to partner with other institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

Support for MSIs. The office is directed to allocate at least $60 million to engaging HBCUs and other MSIs in research capacity-building and workforce-development efforts, including through the new RENEW (Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce) and FAIR (Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research) programs. The administration requested $60 million for RENEW and about $36 million for FAIR.

EPSCoR. Funding is increasing from $25 million to at least the requested level of $35 million for DOE’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which supports projects in states and territories that have generally received a disproportionately small share of federal research funding. DOE has previously funded EPSCoR from the Basic Energy Sciences program’s budget, but the appropriation directs that it “be implemented and funded across all the [office’s] science programs.” The CHIPS and Science Act also requires the office to allocate at least 10% of its university R&D funding to institutions in EPSCoR jurisdictions if “practicable,” and recommends Congress ramp up the office’s EPSCoR funding to $125 million by fiscal year 2026.

Basic Energy Sciences

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks at Argonne National Lab

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaking at Argonne National Lab in July. Her visit incorporated a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the completion of a new experiment hall that will take advantage of the soon-to-be upgraded capabilities of the lab’s Advanced Photon Source. (Image credit – ANL)

The budget for the BES program rose 10% to $2.53 billion. With that appropriation and the IRA money, the program is making significant progress on funding projects in its sprawling construction portfolio. Amounts listed below include funding from both sources.

Advanced Photon Source. The $14 million appropriated for an upgrade project at Argonne National Lab’s APS user facility was the last installment in its $815 million funding profile. APS is scheduled to begin a one-year “dark period” on April 17 to accommodate the upgrade’s installation.

Advanced Light Source. Receiving $232 million, an upgrade project at Berkeley Lab’s ALS user facility was a major beneficiary of the past year’s funding developments and is now less than $60 million from the end of its $590 million profile. DOE gave the project the go-ahead last fall to begin its main phase of construction.

Linac Coherent Light Source II. SLAC’s LCLS-II X-ray free electron laser facility is expected to achieve its first-light milestone next month. The $190 million it has received will support work on a follow-on upgrade expected to cost in the range of $700 million.

Spallation Neutron Source. A beam upgrade at Oak Ridge National Lab’s SNS user facility received $17 million, bringing the project nearly to the end of its $272 million profile. A separate project to build a second target station at SNS is ramping up slowly, receiving $80 million. That is a large step up from its $32 million budget for fiscal year 2022, but with a total expected cost of more than $2 billion, the effort is still near the beginning of its funding profile. The new station is poised to receive more funding as the needs of other projects are met, and the new lead appropriator for DOE in the house, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), is likely to be a strong advocate for it as he is the representative for Oak Ridge’s district.

High Flux Isotope Reactor. A project to replace the pressure vessel at Oak Ridge’s HFIR facility is receiving at least $2 million this year, marking its first dedicated appropriation. In a recent interview with media outlet Bloomberg, Fleischmann identified the project as a funding priority.

National Synchrotron Light Source II. After receiving $44 million, a project to build three new beamlines at Brookhaven National Lab’s NSLS-II user facility now only requires about $20 million more to complete its $87 million funding profile. DOE is beginning to plan for the next phase of the facility’s beamline buildout.

NSRC recapitalization. After receiving $45 million, an initiative to modernize equipment at the five Nanoscale Science Research Centers is close to covering its $74 million total cost.

User facility operations. While the administration proposed trimming budgets for scientific user facility operations, Congress instead raised the minimum amounts DOE should allocate:

  • Light sources. $566 million, up from $538 million

  • Neutron sources. $311 million, up from $294 million

  • NSRCs. $149 million, up from $142 million

Nuclear Physics

The NP program budget went up 11% to $805 million, well surpassing the administration’s request for a 2% increase.

Electron-Ion Collider. The EIC project received $138 million through the IRA as well as $70 million through its annual appropriation, far exceeding the $30 million requested. Brookhaven National Lab, which is leading the project, had feared low funding levels would force it to lay off needed personnel from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility that the EIC will replace. RHIC is set to conclude its operations in 2025 and has just held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new sPHENIX detector, which will be reconfigured for use with EIC. The new collider’s total cost is expected to fall between $1.7 billion and $2.8 billion.

FRIB. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University began science operations last spring and work is underway on two additional components for it that received funding boosts through the IRA. The Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array (GRETA) is now reaching the end of its $58 million funding profile, while the High Rigidity Spectrometer has moved from its earliest stages of funding to having around half its roughly $100 million total cost covered.

MOLLER. An experiment at Jefferson Lab to measure a minute asymmetry in polarized electron-electron scattering reactions is now reaching the end of its roughly $50 million funding profile.

High Energy Physics

Funding for the HEP program rose 8% to $1.17 billion, which was double the requested increase.

LBNF/DUNE and PIP-II. The program’s flagship neutrino physics project received an appropriation of $176 million and an associated accelerator upgrade at Fermilab received $120 million, matching the requested amounts. The projects also respectively received $125 million and $10 million through the IRA. Schedule estimates for LBNF/DUNE appear to have stabilized following a period of tumult, with detector installation slated to begin in 2024 and the start of full science operations targeted for 2031. LBNF/DUNE’s total cost to DOE is now expected to exceed $3 billion, with one upper-bound estimate suggesting $3.8 billion is possible, while PIP-II is projected to cost DOE almost $1 billion. Those estimates do not include the more than $1 billion the two projects have attracted in international and other non-DOE contributions.

LHC upgrades. Congress did not specify funding levels for U.S. contributions to detector and accelerator upgrades at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. However, $106 million provided through the IRA will bring the projects close to the end of their funding profiles. Estimates for the combined total cost of the projects are in flux, but the price tag for DOE is broadly in the half-billion-dollar range. The National Science Foundation is also contributing to the detector upgrades.

CMB-S4. The IRA provided $13 million for the Cosmic Microwave Background Stage 4 experiment and Congress permitted DOE to spend up to an additional $10 million on it through base appropriations this year. The project remains in its early stages and is expected to also receive significant funding from NSF.

Fusion Energy Sciences

The FES program budget increased 7% to $763 million, significantly outstripping the administration’s request for a 1% increase. Interest in fusion has recently been growing and the CHIPS and Science Act called for the program’s budget to be immediately boosted to over $1 billion. Last year, the White House also announced it would pursue a “bold decadal vision” for fusion energy and DOE officials have hinted the program will be prioritized in the administration’s next budget request.

ITER. Funding for the U.S. contribution to the France-based ITER fusion project remained steady at $242 million, with no less than $70 million reserved for cash contributions. The IRA also provided an extra $256 million for ITER, bringing the U.S. up to date on deferred funding obligations. However, the project is currently facing serious disruptions, including extensive flaws in critical components that will either need to be repaired or replaced at a cost that remains uncertain. According to a bipartisan letter House Science Committee leaders sent to ITER and DOE in December, ITER officials have given preliminary indications the project will be delayed between three and five years. ITER, which is not designed to produce energy for practical purposes, had previously anticipated achieving its “first plasma” milestone in 2025.

Private fusion ventures. DOE is directed to spend at least $25 million on its new “milestone-based” program to support private ventures in developing fusion reactors. Last year, Congress directed DOE to spend up to $45 million on the program and DOE ultimately allocated $25 million. In Congress’ initial vision for the program, its funding was supposed to crest at above $100 million, though even at that level it would play a supporting role to the billions of dollars that venture capitalists have been investing in fusion energy efforts. Both DOE and fusion’s boosters believe it is feasible to start building fusion power plants in the 2030s.

MEC petawatt laser. A project to upgrade the Matter in Extreme Conditions end station at SLAC received an $11 million appropriation and $10 million through the IRA, rescuing its budget from a proposed reduction to $1 million. The project has been held up by ongoing uncertainty surrounding its scope.

Other programs

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia standing next to the lab’s Frontier computer in August 2022

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia standing next to the lab’s Frontier computer in August 2022, months after it became the world’s first computer to be independently verified as achieving exascale processing speeds. Zacharia retired as director at the end of 2022 after a 35-year career at the lab. (Image credit – ORNL)

Advanced Scientific Computing Research. Funding for the ASCR program rose 3% to $1.07 billion, in line with the requested amount. The program is currently ramping down its initiative to build exascale computers, with Oak Ridge National Lab’s Frontier machine now operating and Argonne National Lab preparing to start up its Aurora machine. Congress raised the minimum allocation to the combined operating budgets for ASCR’s high-performance computing user facilities by 6% to $560 million.

Biological and Environmental Research. The budget for the BER program increased 11% to $909 million, which is slightly more than requested. The Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Lab is allocated at least $65 million, or 50% more than its fiscal year 2021 budget. Congress allocated up to $20 million to low-dose radiation research after allocating no less than $8 million last year. Having discontinued a previous low-dose radiation research effort, DOE has been reluctant to start a new one, viewing it as a low priority for BER, but Congress has insisted through successive waves of policy and appropriations legislation that it should do so. BER recently indicated that due to budget constraints it is unlikely to allocate the full $20 million permitted this year. It does, though, plan to include low-dose research in its budget request for the first time since Congress started allocating funding for renewed work.

Isotope R&D and Production. While the base budget for the isotope program grew 33% to $109 million, it also received $158 million in IRA funds, supporting both short-term and long-term projects to increase domestic isotope production. Interest in bolstering domestic production has been spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which underscored the risks in the current reliance on Russian sources for many critical isotopes and materials needed for their production.

Accelerator R&D and Production. Funding for the office’s new accelerator technology program increased 52% to about $27 million, matching the request. The office split the program off from the High Energy Physics program in 2020 to address accelerator R&D, workforce, and supply-chain issues relevant across several of the office’s science programs.

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